The pros and cons of gating your best content

As a brand, should you consider gating your most valuable content? Creating truly valuable content doesn’t come easy to many brands. It also isn’t free. Developing high quality content takes time, money and resources and as a brand, you’ll want to ensure that that investment generates a positive return. You may even have found yourself asking if your content was simply too good to give away for free on your website.

Certainly, many newspaper publishers and magazine sites have asked faced that very same scenario in recent years with the end result being many have put up pay walls to protect their best content.

‘To gate or not to gate’ is a classic marketing question that’s still pondered over by those that consider themselves expert content marketers and digital marketing practitioners. Should you hide your most valuable content behind some form of obstacle, or should it be free for the entire world to consume? What is the value in gated content, and perhaps most importantly for you as a brand is gated content actually looked upon unfavourably by users? The very last thing you’ll want to do is put time and effort into good quality content creation only to see your web traffic plummet and that resource being underutilised because you read the market incorrectly and tried to gate it.

So what is gated content exactly?

Gated content is essentially content hidden behind some form of obstacle – one of the most common ‘gates’ is the requirement to enter an email address on a contact form before you can download an ebook or white paper. Other gated content is hidden behind a pay wall – which is what many publishers now do.
Using the email address example, data gathered through the contact form is often used for soft lead generation or mailing list building by the marketer. This can be hugely effective. Hiding great content behind an email-activated gate like this allows you to grow your leads enormously and develop a database of web users that have already engaged with your site in some way or another. Arguably, this means they are likely to do so again.

Gated content does work

For many marketers and organizations implementing a gated content strategy, excellent results are common. Gated content helps get the conversation between business and consumer started. By entering their information in that contact form in the first place, the user is signaling that they’re interested in the business in some way, and they’d like to hear more about what it offers. Contacts generated with this method are much more valuable than page views or any other metrics you might be measuring on your non-gated content.

But it does have its downsides for readers

Unfortunately, the concept of gated content still has a number of downsides, with the biggest being the potential wrath of the readership concerned. Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, is famously against gated content, and has said, “From my experience, gating content creates a lot of backlash. Opt in forms give me three times the leads of any other method, but they tick people off… by a lot.”

Is ‘ticking people off’ the best way to nurture leads? Probably not. In fact, placing a gate in front of your content is one of the fastest way to reduce the number of leads coming your way at all. Content without a gate will generally generate more leads, purely because, in this age of identity fraud and endless spam email, some users are reluctant to part with their personal information as ‘payment’ for the content they wish to access.

Many people perceive gated content as negative, and will do whatever they can to circumvent it. They’ll offer up fake email addresses to gain access to that content, meaning as a marketer, you risk your shiny new mailing list returning bounced message after bounced message. Those who feel very strongly about gated content might sign up with their own email address, gain access to the content that they want, then immediately unsubscribe. This makes the effort of gating content in the first place a total waste of time and resource.

Make your gated content your most valuable offering

If you are considering gating your content having weighed up the pros and cons debated above, the only way you can mitigate the wrath of your readership is by ensuring that the content hidden behind the wall is well worth the user handing over personal content details.

If your content is the type of easy-to-digest content that builds brand awareness and wouldn’t seem out of place on your regular blog, it’s probably not worth gating – less people will actually see the content, and those who do enter their information might feel cheated and unlikely to return.

You should also make it as easy as possible for users to enter their information when they reach the gate. When faced with an enormous contact form asking for the name of their first family pet and multiple methods of contact, you’re pushing users to drop off. If they can sign in and hand over their email address with a social login, which takes just a few clicks, they’re much more likely to proceed.

Don’t forget to review your gated content policy

Don’t just gate your content for the foreseeable future, with no process for review or evaluation. You should be constantly analyzing how effective your marketing techniques are, to adjust wherever necessary, and that includes your gated content.

If you’re not getting as many good quality leads from your gated content as you initially thought, you’ll need to change something up. Perhaps your content needs to be of a higher quality, or your gate needs to be a little simpler. Perhaps your particular customer base isn’t happy with gated content at all, and would be better targeted with free, easily accessible content.

Every gated content strategy is different – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. You’ll need to test, test, test, and be ready to adapt to the results of your testing to get the right outcome for your business.

Do you need help with your content strategy or content creation process? Speak to our experienced content marketing team today to find out how we can elevate your content to a whole new level.

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